Debate rages over forest bill

Apsley independent MLC Tania Rattray

Apsley independent MLC Tania Rattray

UPDATE

RESOURCES Minister Paul Harriss is confident of victory for the government's forestry bill after Legislative Councillors indicated their general support for the policy.

Upper house members this morning voted 9 to 5 in favour of carrying the legislation to the committee stage.

All proposed amendments will now be closely scrutinised before the bill is offered up for a third reading.

Mr Harriss said the passage of the bill would be a turning point for Tasmania.

''For the first time in our state's history the green tide is being turned and the balance is being reset after the Tasmanian people said resoundingly at the March election that 'enough is enough','' he said.

''We are rebuilding the forest industry, making clear that there will be no more lock ups and working to remove reserves from the clutches of the green locksmiths.''

Greens leader Kim Booth said the legislation would cast uncertainty over the state's timber industry.

''Nobody's got any idea, including Mr Harriss, how they're going to make this industry work,'' Mr Booth said.

''They're certainly not going to make it financially viable, as indicated today by the Letter of Comfort (sent to Forestry Tasmania from the Liberal Government).''

''I think he's just created chaos, quite frankly, and damaged the opportunity for the Tasmanian forestry industry and Tasmania's brand.''

EARLIER

Debate over dismantling the forest peace deal raged late into last night, with Legislative Councillors delivering speeches laced with a mixture of praise, apprehension and opposition.

The Liberal government is aiming to "tear up" the peace deal by reclassifying 400,000 hectares of native forest for potential logging in six years' time.

Its legislation also looks to open other areas of previously protected land for specialty timber harvesting sooner.

Second reading speeches on the bill hit several roadblocks while a raft of late changes were made, but debate finally got under way late yesterday afternoon.

Apsley Independent MLC Tania Rattray said she was confident the repeal bill sensibly delivered what the majority of Tasmanians wanted.

"We have the evidence of the interested punters and the bulk of the information suggests this legislation is a way forward," Ms Rattray said.

Several MLCs referenced a letter received from Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chief executive Terry Edwards.

In it, Mr Edwards said FIAT had resolved a number of outstanding issues and concerns with the bill and was now in a position to support it.

But Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest and Rosevears Independent MLC Kerry Finch both expressed deep reservations.

Each voiced concern about unforeseen consequences stemming from a "flood" of last-minute amendments.

Ms Forrest said the bill legislation did not "tear up" the forest peace deal, but simply emasculated it.

"I cannot for the life of me see how this bill will rebuild the forest industry," Ms Forrest said.

"I don't believe this bill achieves what it set out to and therefore will not be supporting it."

Derwent Labor MLC Craig Farrell likened the repeal bill to an inferior imitation of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

Mr Farrell said the legislation risked achieving nothing and pleasing nobody.

"This egg is badly scrambled and it's difficult to see how we can put it back together," he said.

But Mr Farrell conceded the government appeared to have the numbers to pass its bill.

"Once this government's made it's bed it has to be prepared to lie in it," he said.

"I certainly hope this will give them sweet dreams and not cause too many nightmares."

The bill will be sent to the committee stage of the Legislative Council today.

It will then be read a final time before upper house members cast their votes.

The legislation is expected to eventually pass comfortably with support from about eight MLCs.

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